Memories of travelling by steam train.

“You will walk( travel) safely and you will not stumble.(encounter danger). When you lie down you will not be afraid and your sleep will be sweet.”( still lovely)

Proverbs 3 : 23,24
My first memory of being on a steam train was sticking my head out of the compartment window to see the engine and suddenly getting a stinging sensation in my right eye. I had just had a stitch removed from my left eye in a Johannesburg hospital and we were on our way back to Bulawayo. Mum worked fast to get the cinder/soot out of my eye: top lid over bottom, a wet corner of a clean hanky with me looking away.
It was out!
That is all I can remember.

It is easy to remember our next trip as it was a treat to leave Johannesburg with all its family tensions and spend some time with my sister and mum on a journey to Salisbury where mum’s parents lived. Our journeys by train always involved nights and days so when the three of us travelled mum insisted we didn’t share but always had our own compartment.

Our carriages were done in green leather with highly polished brass fittings. Then there was shiny dark wood where there wasn’t leather. Here in this picture these carriages are parked at Bulawayo Station.

For all my several journeys the top bunk in the coupe was always my bed. From here you could feel the sway of the carriage and hear the click of the wheels with a rhythm that could detach you from all those sleeping below. It was close to the roof and had a strong wooden bar to protect you or your bedding falling out. We always had our own pillows from home and on some journeys we had lovely starched sheets provided. Mostly we were comfortable. At night mum had the windows up, except for a few inches at the top and that was another advantage to sleeping on the top bunk the cool night air coming in as we travelled.

During the day the brown, green and yellow of the African bush went passed at a gentle speed. The smell of ants and grass mixed with steam and smoke of the fire up front was a signature for this adventure. We had colouring in books and I think mum must have read to us. I can’t remember what because the adventure we were on seemed all consuming. Coming in to a siding to fill the engine with water and the loud noise of letting off steam with the equally loud whistle to say we were on our way. This was exciting. We were also able to get off and buy something in the small shop and when we couldn’t get out, local people would bring beautifully carved items to the track side. Mum loved to buy from them.

The peaceful feeling of travel.

Not being here or there stimulates a pleasant enjoyable feeling which started when I was very young. I guess it is the joy of being on the road!

My husband tells of travelling for the first time on his own at age 13 from the mission station in Zambia to his school in Cape Town. He remembers well this train crossing of the Victoria Falls with its bridge spanning the gorge dividing
Zambia and Rhodesia. He seems to speak of it with no fear but rather a joy of travelling at that age unaccompanied. This journey of his also included time spent in Bulawayo before continuing on. He did this several times over the years. I didn’t know him at this age we only met at 18 and 19. (I am a year older than Roy.)

The steam engine has done much more for science than science has done for the steam engine.

Lord Kelvin 1824 – 1907 British Mathematician and engineer.

Those who admire modern civilization usually identify it with the steam engine and the electric telegraph.

George Bernard Shaw 1856 – 1950 Irish playwright , critic and political activist.

I am sure we have very different examples of what identifies modern civilization now. I wonder what you would say?

Thank you for looking at this post.

Sandy 😊

12 thoughts on “Memories of travelling by steam train.

  1. Wow very interesting memories as always. Thank you Sandy for sharing it with us. My mom and used to dream or riding a train together someday sadly we never did. Getting to experience it through your beautiful childhood memories is the next best thing. Happy National Friendship Day! πŸ™πŸ™πŸ™πŸ˜ŠπŸ˜Šβ€πŸŽ‰πŸŽ‰πŸšƒπŸšžπŸš‚πŸ›€


    1. Ah , I didn’t know about national friendship day. How lovely! I wish you lots of happiness too. Glad you were able to “come along with us”. I have a continuation of when we travelled from Bulawayo to the Vumba mountains with a train full of teenagers. “Those were the days my friend we thought they would never end”. Prayers and love to you. Thank you for saying such kind supportive things.


  2. Wonderful post! I remember that trip to Salisbury, but not as well as you do, and you brought back bits I’d forgotten. I do remember being fed up that you got to sleep on the top bunk because you were older😁. How rich we are with memories. Please write more of them. Glad you’re my sister.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. These are such rich childhood experiences and memories of traveling at such a young age. Glad you are able to remember and write it so well that I can imagine being there. The pictures are also great to help paint an overall picture. Thanks for sharing. πŸ™πŸΎβ€οΈ


  4. Incredible post Sandy, I am so glad that I stumbled upon your post.
    Simply stunning sceneries, instantly put a spell on me with breathtaking beauty of the place. Although train travel is not everyone’s cup of tea, I love it.
    This also reminds me of an incredible journey I took with my wife in a small island nation called ‘Sri Lanka’ in South Asia in the beginning of this year.
    Trust me when i say this, it was truly the ‘pearl of Asia’ mind blowing wild life, culture, people, food and unspoiled destinations it was purely a one for the memory vaults for us. I made a post from my journal entries on the journey and you are more than welcome to have a look through here,


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